During my post graduate studies as a Masters student at the Department of history and Strategic studies in Unilag, one of the courses i enjoyed the most was “Boundary and Boundary disputes”. For me, this course was an espousé on the question of Boundaries in Africa. I learnt about the special challenges faced by the Citizens who live close to the border (borderlands), how the areas surrounding the Border had it’s peculiarities and how borderland communities are often abandoned by their Government as they are usually too far from the seat of power.
Oh, did i mention that the borderlands usually have their own economy too and how there are actually no real boundaries for those residing at the borderlands i.e, they can usually enter and exit each others’ countries without serious restrictions. Guess what drives the border economy? Smuggling of course.
Visiting the Nigerian Border with Benin Republic gave me a first-hand insight. There were so many checkpoints, potholes, and Naira Notes to go round and each of them had something to do with the other.
Talking about potholes, the road leading to Badagry is so bad that a pregnant woman can have miscarriage simply by plying that route. The potholes are so deep and wide that most times, they cover a larger portion of the road. You know how normally, there should be potholes on the road? Well, in this case, there were roads on the potholes.
The fact that it was rainy season even worsened the whole situation. The potholes were filled with brown, muddy water. Long stretches of the road was occupied by thick muds that could get your car stuck if you ventured into them. A word of advise, never drive your car along that road, unless of course you don’t love the car anymore. From Badagry, there are two routes to Benin Republic, the first leads to Sémè Border, while the other takes you to Owode Border. For some reason, we chose the route to Owode border. We had no idea that we were setting ourselves up as this road turned out to be the most potholes infested road I’ve ever seen.
The checkpoints along the road even before Badagry were innumerable. You would easily lose count as there were at least 50 checkoints consisting of every Military and Para-military Agency you can think of. From military to Police, Road safety, Customs, Immigration, NDLEA, just name it, you would find all of them at regular intervals along that road leading to the border. I’m sure even states where State of emergencies has been declared do not have such a heavy prescence of security officials. I understand that their job is to ensure the security of commuters and to mitigate the activities of smugglers, but do they actually do all that? Let’s find out below.
We got to a checkpoint and our driver refused to give the policemen money. Out of anger, the policemen ordered all 15 of us in the bus to come down for a thorough search of our luggages. This simply meant that if we were smugglers, they would have let us go after a five hundred naira bribe. Now, to answer the question in the paragraph before this, no. Most of these security officials are just on those roads to connive with the smugglers. The smugglers simply pay-off the officials and have a field day bringing in all sorts of contrabands. On your journey to the border, you would need a lot of N200 to N500 notes, else you woukd likely sleep on the road as these security officers will find different ways to waste your time if you don’t give them the required cash.
Still wondering how all three of potholes, check-points and naira notes are related? Here is your answer. The bad roads means motorists cannot speed along the roads, this makes it easier for the security operatives at every checkpoint to stop you, once they stop you, you would most likely have to pay some money, especially if it is a police checkpoint. In fact, during our journey to Benin Republic, the only security officials that demanded money from us were Policemen. The rest just wanted to chat, look through our passport and send us on our way.